Media Release from May 27, 2016
The massive June 17 sacred walk planned for the Chaudiere Falls site (Akikodjiwan / Asinabka) in Ottawa/Gatineau will now be holding the extra weight that an Ontario Superior Court judge shrugged off in his ruling yesterday (May 26) – the responsibility of recognizing and protecting the sacredness of the site.
The judge ruled against hearing the case seeking to appeal an earlier Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruling that refused to consider overturning a City of Ottawa rezoning decision. That decision removed the ‘parkland’ zoning of the sacred site, in order to allow the ‘Zibi’ condominium development project on two of the islands at the Chaudiere Falls.
The key legal issues are around the (lack of) protection of a site deemed sacred by the Algonquin, the original inhabitants and caretakers of this still-unceded territory.
Neither this judge, nor the original Ontario Municipal Board member, would even allow for a full hearing to determine the merits of the case.
The next step of this legal fight is the Ontario Court of Appeal, says Michael Swinwood, lawyer for the group of appellants headed by renowned Anishinabe architect Douglas Cardinal.
In his ruling, the judge upheld the OMB finding that the duty to consult “had been discharged” by the developers and by the City of Ottawa.
He agreed with the OMB decision that “the concerns of First Nations, particularly the Algonquin have been met …” even though in advance of the City’s rezoning vote, the then-chief of Kitigan Zibi (KZ), Gilbert Whiteduck, had sent a letter requesting the City postpone their rezoning decision and have dialogue with KZ leadership first, which the City completely ignored.
The judge cited the OMB finding that the development “has had input from the [Algonquins of Ontario] and the Algonquins of Kitigan Zibi” and referenced a City of Ottawa policy of ensuring the “Algonquins of Ontario” (AOO) are consulted as stakeholders for the site.
This is the same approach that the federal government through the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is taking: that the AOO are the ones to be consulted on this development. However, the Ottawa River (provincial border) is not a dividing line of Algonquin territory, and the AOO are not recognized members of the Algonquin Nation.
The AOO is an organization that was formed around a decade ago to negotiate the Eastern Ontario Algonquin land claim, and consists of the officially-recognized Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation along with nine ‘non-status’ communities who each have an elected Algonquin Negotiation Representative at the table.
The federal comprehensive claims policy, which requires the extinguishment of Aboriginal Title and Rights, is being used by all levels of government to ignore the rights and interests that ALL Algonquin First Nations have to the sacred site while only consulting the AOO. A number of Algonquin First Nations have been seeking changes to the immoral and internationally-illegal comprehensive claims policy, most recently presenting an Urgent Action request to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The two Algonquin tribal councils, that combined represent all the official Algonquin communities aside from Pikwakanagan, have both recently publicly been raising concerns about their lack of consultation regarding the sacred site and the adjacent LeBreton Flats – Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council Grand Chief Verna Polson in speaking with APTN on May 4, and the Algonquin Nation Secretariat in a public letter to the National Capital Commission on May 5.
The most important duty to consult – for a proposed development on a sacred site on unceded land – rests with the federal government. In addition, some of the land slated for development on the islands and on the Gatineau shoreline is federally-held land by the National Capitial Commission and/or Public Works Canada that cannot be legitimately transferred to a private corporation without Algonquin consultation.
The Algonquin leadership is calling on all levels of government – through a November resolution by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and a December resolution by the Assembly of First Nations as a whole – to honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by entering into discussions to protect this sacred site and return it to Algonquin stewardship.
For now, the sacred walk of June 17 led by Algonquin Elders will help maintain the momentum of these efforts. This planned massive show of support is in coordination with the Cree youth walkers of the Journey of Nishiyuu, who will be returning to Ottawa to help protect this sacred site after their last visit in 2013 ending their 1600-km winter walk at the height of the Idle No More movement that inspired the country. The walk will start with ceremony on Victoria Island at 10am on Friday June 17, and at 11am walk to Parliament Hill, where there will be speeches and more.
Links: ItIsSacred.ca – Facebook event – Facebook group
In advance of June 17, the ‘Stop Windmill’ group is holding a panel discussion entitled “Reconciliation Needs Justice: Stop Windmill’s ‘Zibi’ Condos on Sacred Algonquin Land.” The event is the evening of Wednesday June 8, starting at 7 pm at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The speakers will be Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont, former Ottawa City Councillor Clive Doucet, and Stop Windmill member Cathy Remus.
Links: Facebook event – Poster
Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont will also be speaking on Monday June 13 starting at 7pm, at First United Church (347 Richmond Rd) hosted by the Living Into Right Relations Circle. His talk will be about applying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the restoration of the sacred site.
This weekend (May 28-29), the Freeing Chaudiere Falls and Its Islands group (‘Free The Falls’) will have information tables at two community events: on Saturday at the Great Glebe Garage Sale (table outside of the Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave) and on both Saturday and Sunday at the Odawa Pow Wow (200 Moodie Rd, south of the Queensway).
for background information and updates
It IS Sacred – June 17: itissacred.ca
Stop Windmill group: stopwindmill.ca
Free The Falls group: freethefalls.ca
The Asinabka Vision: asinabka.com
Algonquin Nation Secretariat releases: algonquinnation.ca/?page_id=242
Albert Dumont’s writings: albertdumont.com/tag/chaudiere-falls/
EquitableEducation reporting/multimedia: equitableeducation.ca/tag/chaudiere-falls